Tag Archives: library careers

We often have tight scheduling for interviews and wasting 10 mins while an applicant gets their microphone to work is problematic

A white lady in sunglasses and 1980s sweater smiles
Esther Johnson. Arbor Day Celebration – 1984. Photo by Norden H. (Dan) Cheatham From UC Berkeley Library Digital Collections.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: User Experience Librarian/Head of Access Services

Titles hired include: Library Assistant, Student Assistant, Research & Instruction Librarian, Systems Librarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

√ Employees at the position’s same level (on a panel or otherwise) 

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

HR posts the job and all members of the hiring committee can see applicants. We use a rubric/metrics tailored to the job to assess all applicants and then meet to sort them into categories including yes, no, maybe. Depending on the job we will either have one round of on-campus interviews (assistants) or for librarians we will have two rounds including a first round phone interview. My role depends on whether or not I am head of the search committee, if I am head then I work with HR to post and market the position, create the rubric and interview questions, and do all of the work to contact and arrange interviews and follow-up references and then submit the decision and paperwork for approval. If I am a member of the committee I complete the necessary reviews and take part in the interviews as directed and then attend meetings to discuss applicants. 

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

Their cover letter was perfectly tailored to our position. Every requirement we listed they specifically addressed how they met it or how they might meet it. During the interview they were very articulate and had a student-centered view of instruction. They also didn’t shy away from discussing tough topics surrounding inclusion and social justice. Additionally, they asked very thoughtful questions about our institution that showed they had done some prior research. All combined, it gave the sense that they really wanted this specific position. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Not necessarily, if someone has the wrong library listed in their cover letter I tend to put them into the “no” pile and that does happen in our library assistant searches fairly frequently. 

I am also hesitant of PhD holders and former faculty members who are seeking to switch into libraries as their cover letters don’t often show a full understanding of the work that libraries do. 

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

While this can change as people develop, I wish I had a better sense of what candidates are looking for long-term. Is this position a stepping stone to something else? Do they really want to work in public libraries and are just applying to everything that comes along? 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more 

Resume: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

CV: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

Not owning up to something that they aren’t familiar with and instead having a rambling non-answer to a question. I appreciate a person saying that they don’t have a ton of experience with a specific product or situation and asking for clarification about how we would handle something. 

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

Yes we do. I think testing the technology ahead of time is a good idea. We often have tight scheduling for interviews and wasting 10 mins while an applicant gets their microphone to work is problematic. Also, if cameras are on they should be looking at the screen the same way we would expect them to be making eye contact with us in an in-person interview. 

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

For library assistant positions, we’re looking for people who have customer services and supervisory skills. Library experience is helpful but we’d prioritize a person who knows how to manage people and handle a fast paced environment. The same is true when we hire Systems or Technology positions, the systems might be different but if you can demonstrate that you have competence in managing data or working in networks, then we assume that you can extend those to library products. 

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

HR collects demographic information and will specifically tell us if there are certain candidates that they would like us to reconsider based on this information. We also send applicants copies of our questions ahead of time to reduce any issues for those who need more time to process information. We try our best to overlook simple grammatical and spelling errors that could be attributed to language barriers but we could stand to improve on that. 

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

I usually like for them to ask what a typical day/week is like. I want them to ask what we like about working for the library. Questions about the tenure process are usually helpful. I think that they should know about where we are geographically and how that impacts the types of students we encounter. I think they should have a sense of how large (or small) our staff is and what the work environment is like. I also think they should know about our tenure process and the criteria that they will be evaluated on. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

√ Rural 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50  

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 10-50 staff members, Academic, Northeastern US, Rural area, Suburban area

Job Hunter’s Web Guide: Library Returners

In the previous iteration of Hiring Librarians, I did periodic features on websites that supported LIS job hunters. You can take a look at the list here. I am planning to do updates on some of those listed, and I’m also hoping to feature new (or new to me) sites.

I’m really pleased to be able to feature Library Returners. It’s an excellent and much-needed resource for those returning to work after a break. This is a topic I had heard about a lot from readers; in fact we did a series on it back in 2013. In the COVID era, I think it’s even more relevant. 

Home page of Library Returners website: background image is a bookshelf and title of site is: Library Returners: A site for those returning to Librarianship after a career break

What is it?  Please give us your elevator speech!

Library Returners is a site aimed at those returning to work in libraries after a career break. It contains a range of advice, guest posts and career break stories, that will also be of value to those changing track, sector, thinking of taking some time out, or just reassessing where they are in their career.

When and why was it started?

I entered the world of career breaks many years ago. But I didn’t find the information I needed or wanted when I wanted to re-join the profession and return to work. The blog was started to fill what I felt was a gap in career resources available for librarians who had taken time away from the formal workplace.

It went live in April 2018 but it really started with the release of a blog post written in September 16, 2018 called Getting back into the game: how to restart your library career after a break – Library returners This post provides a rather neat summary of some of things someone who in on a period of extended leave can do to kickstart their library job search. However, it was also a good ‘vision post’, setting out what the blog was really all about. I received such a great response to this post and people started to subscribe.

Now, I post a mixture of articles that I write myself or that are written by fabulous librarians working in the field with experience of career breaks or from wonderful library career and industry experts offering career advice. I am always interested to hear what topics readers would like to see tackled on the blog. I started to write about the things I wanted to hear more about, but as the site developed, ideas for articles have also come from readers directly, using the Dear Ms Library Returner, – Library returners box or via direct messages. The personal stories, like Guest post: Jessie – Library returners have a real and deep connection with people and I would certainly like to develop this in the future. Some are from librarians who have successfully returned to working at the level they want, while others are from people still working their first return to work job or ‘bridge job’. I am deeply grateful to everyone who has contributed because they’ve all given me their precious time for free. 

Who runs it? Please tell us a bit about your background. 

Library returners is run by Susan Mends from Wales, UK.

I have what might be described as a portfolio career!

I started in libraries in the early 1990s, initially working full-time in public libraries and then working full-time in teaching and developing open, distance and e-learning masters programmes (an early career highlight was setting up the Masters in Library and Information Studies by distance learning in Aberystwyth University Throughout this time I maintained a genuine interest in career education, guidance and planning to enhance employability.

I took a career break in 2013 after my third child was born. Around the same time, I was also engaged in caregiving to an elderly member of the family. Four years later I started my library returner journey, returning to work on a flexible basis and taking on a ‘bridge job’ with part-time hours in a public library as entry back into the profession.

I still work in the public library sector while also providing freelance writing services to a university department and have, for example, recently completed revising an open, distance and e-learning module in Children’s Librarianship. 

Who is your target audience?

Librarians, aspiring librarians, library workers, returners and relaunchers and anyone who wants and needs to connect and interact.

The biggest audience are people taking a break from the workplace for a variety of reasons and finding ways to return. However, it is also read by other readers, e.g., those who are interested in part-time, flexible, professional remote work. I’ve been surprised by the number of new library professionals who’ve told me they access the site. A new development are readers preparing for their retirement.

It is accessed in many different parts of the world. Changes in the workplace and the wider profession in response to the coronavirus pandemic mean that everyone is considering their future.

What’s the best way to use your site?   

Readers can check it out as needed. New blog posts are released around every two months. The bibliography and other pages will be updated on an ad hoc basis. 

Does your site provide:

Answers to reader questions

Interviews

Articles/literature

Links

Research

The opportunity for interaction

Advice on:

Cover Letters

Resumes

Interviewing

 Networking

Other: Flexible working / Job applications / Career coaching / Mindfulness/Portfolio careers / Job shadowing / Volunteering/ Lack of work experience / Job skills / LinkedIn / 

Should readers also look for you on social media? Or is your content available in other formats? Please include links, subscription information, or other details if pertinent

Twitter: @Libraryreturner 

LinkedIn: Susan Mends

Facebook 

Do you charge for anything on your site?

No

Can you share any stories about job hunters that found positions after using your site?

The library returners blog is building a collection of real-life career break stories from people who have taken time away from libraries for all sorts of reasons. People on a career break find real value in reading other people’s stories, whether they record a return to the same field of librarianship or a career adjustment or change. They can be particularly helpful to read during a long, tough job hunt, the type of difficult search process being experienced by many at the moment. I am always looking for new stories as people find these really useful.

The stories collected so far can be found here Your voices: LIS career break stories 

You can find my story Real-life Returners: the challenges of returning to work in the library and information sector on another website! 

Anything else you’d like to share with my readers about your site in particular, or about library hiring/job hunting in general?

The hardest thing for a library returner to overcome is the perception that you’ve become stale and lost your professional skillset while you’ve been on extended leave. 

If you can:

  • Seek out networking opportunities while you are still on your career break – how can you connect, attend a conference, a virtual webinar?
  • Keep your skills up to date – can you take a course?
  • Maintain your LinkedIn profile – it is tempting to close it down but far better to hold it open and say why you are not available. Now it’s ready to update when you are! 

The job search process can be daunting and anything you can do to make this a bit easier will help. But if you switched off completely during your break, don’t worry. Visit libraryreturners.com for more advice!  

Thank you!

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Consistent use of STAR technique

Image: Hudson Park, Picture book hour, Miss Cutler, children’s librarian. From the New York Public Library

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Titles hired: Regional manager, Librarian, public service assistant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Resume

√ References

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

Pre screen panel of 3 interviewers, 3 questions, 10 minutes to answer. If selected to move on, 1 hour interview with 5 member panel

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

Consistent use of STAR technique, involvement in professional associations, and ability to articulate concepts from self guided professional development

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

No

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

Not providing specific examples to support answers

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

Yes.

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

Hype up customer service skills

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

Pre and post bias discussion. Diverse hiring panel

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

I’d like them to ask more about our strategic mission and the culture between admin and branch level. What is the role of Librarian in the organization. How do you see it changing in the next 5 years.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: Occasional WFH opportunities. Generally discouraged for non management

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 201+

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 200+ staff members, Public, Suburban area, Urban area, Western US

We’d rather wait a few seconds and get a well-thought out answer!

Headshot of Alan Smith. He wears glasses, a white shirt and tie.

Alan Smith is Director of the Florence County, SC Library System and holds a Master of Library and Information Science degree from the University of South Carolina. 

Over the past 20 years he has worked in rural, urban, and suburban public libraries, in a wide variety of roles.

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

I send all applications to the position’s direct supervisor and let them choose who to interview (I will sometimes add in a name too). We interview with a 3-person panel consisting of me, the position’s direct supervisor, and another manager. We rotate other managers in and out and always keep the panel as diverse as possible. After interviewing we score individually and discuss. I defer to the direct supervisor if our opinions differ.

After all this they go through our county’s background check and drug test.  

Titles hired include: Everything! From Branch Library Managers, Information Services Manager, Youth Services Coordinator, Training and Outreach Coordinator, to Pages, Library Assistants, Custodian, Maintenance, Courier…

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel 

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Online application

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

She had a wide variety of experience, none of it in libraries, but really convincingly demonstrated how those skills and experiences would translate to our mission and values. 

Interviews are limited in what they can tell you — and I’ve hired folks with great interviews who turned out not to be great employees — but someone who gives a pleasant interview with thoughtful answers is at least demonstrating that they can do well in a stressful personal interaction, which is a pretty good indicator of customer service skills.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Sounds obvious, but people who don’t show up for an interview and don’t call. We’ve had people do a complete no-show and then continue applying for other positions?! 

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

What kind of coworker are they? Will they help resolve conflicts among other employees or will they just enjoy watching drama unfold? Will they add to or strain social cohesion on the team?

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One! 

Resume: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant 

 CV: √ We don’t ask for this  

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

Feeling like they have to answer immediately and not giving themselves a second to think about their answers. We’d rather wait a few seconds and get a well-thought out answer! And, people who are clearly reluctant to talk about their own accomplishments and virtues. This is where you toot your own horn! 

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

Occasionally. Number one is site preparation – interview from a quiet, distraction free environment (as much as is within your control). 

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

I’m more concerned whether candidates have done work aligned around a mission or set of values, and whether they have experience building good community relationships and/or working with customers, than whether they have done those things in a library setting. 

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

We always use a 3-person panel with members of different races and genders. That doesn’t eliminate individual unconscious bias, of course, but we try to acknowledge it in our discussions about candidates. I do worry about discrimination baked into the process itself, i.e., which candidates’ applications do we never even receive because we didn’t advertise where they would see it, didn’t convince them we were the type of place they would be welcome, etc. 

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

Asking any kind of questions shows a level of interest and critical thinking that we’re really looking for. I like to hear questions about culture and environment (“What’s a typical day like here?” “What do you like most or least about the job?”), and questions about the overall organization’s direction (“What are the library’s top priorities?” “What would a successful person in this position be doing a year from now?”)

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

√ Suburban

√ Rural 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: Very limited remote options during early phases of COVID; our County required all-onsite after May 2020.

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100

Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author? 

I’m always interested in hearing feedback on specific interview questions — questions that are especially illuminating, or well-known questions that are useless. Maybe beyond the scope of this survey though.

Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not try commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 50-100 staff members, Public, Rural area, Southeastern US, Suburban area, Urban area

Doesn’t the MLS itself promote bias as a gatekeeping mechanism?

Charles Benjamin Norton, publisher and bookseller; Seth Hastings Grant, librarian at the New York Mercantile Library; and Daniel Coit Gilman, assistant librarian at Yale at the first annual meeting of American librarians, From the Library of Congress

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Special Library

Title: Program Manager

Titles hired include: Electronic Resources Librarian, Acquisitions Librarian, Reference Librarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

√ Employees at the position’s same level (on a panel or otherwise)

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Online application

√ Resume

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

Applications are submitted to USAJobs and reviewed by HR. HR creates one or more cert lists and highlights candidates who have preference (veterans, etc). Resumes and cover letters are included with the cert list(s), though sometimes we can tell that we are missing paperwork (i.e. a cover letter doesn’t come attached but is referenced in a resume, etc). Resumes are evaluated against a matrix and assigned points. The candidates with the highest number of points are given short-notice to attend an interview the next week. They participate in one 1-hour interview, and each candidate is asked the exact same questions by the exact same panel members. Panelists rank the responses against another written matrix and compare scores only after all interviews are complete. The panel then provides a recommendation and a back-up recommendation to the hiring manager, who will then start contacting references and evaluate. 

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

They were obviously so skilled, but also so polite and lively

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Attitude and tone, though it’s not a problem for others. I’m trying to heal my organization’s culture.

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

What did they think of us? Would they be happy here?

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ We don’t ask for this  

Resume: √ As many as it takes, I love reading

CV: √ We don’t ask for this  

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

Losing track of time – you have to answer all questions within the same 60 minutes assigned to all candidates – if you skip or miss a question, I have to give you a score of 0 on it, and no matter how great your other answers were, this will drive down your score.

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

Yes. Great question! BE EARLY, at least 5 minutes early. Make sure your microphone and headset is working. It’s hard to keep animals and kids quiet, but at least keep other adults out of the room. It’s hard not to talk over people, so it’s okay to say “over” when your answer is complete. 

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

Use the STAR method whenever answering questions and please tell stories that help me understand

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

Another great question – doesn’t the MLS itself promote bias as a gatekeeping mechanism?

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

Ask about culture, fit, and what a typical day might look like

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author? 

Note – our resumes HAVE to be long (federal gov). I have had to throw away WONDERFUL resumes that are too short to make it past the first round of scoring. I have a matrix that I HAVE to follow and if your resume doesn’t address every little thing, it’s not going to make it or score high enough. I can’t stand letting go of great candidates just because they have a one or two page resume, it makes me so sad. I can’t reach out to them to ask them to send a resubmission. Plus the first person to look at your resume is NOT a librarian – help them understand why you’re qualified by using every single keyword you can think of. 

Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not try commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 10-50 staff members, Southwestern US, Special, Urban area

I’ve had very good correlation between successful hires and composers of excellent cover letters

Black and white photo librarian sits at desk in an alcove under a vine, woman stands speaking to her
Image: Great Kills, Librarian and patron at desk From The New York Public Library

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Branch Manager

Titles hired: Library Assistant, Library Assistant Specialist, Youth Services Specialist, Adult Services Specialist, Branch Supervisor

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ The position’s supervisor

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Other: The online application system does a very minor amount of screening, but still lets a lot of people through who don’t meet the minimum qualifications.

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

Applicants must apply online. Positions are open until filled. Interviews are scheduled after a sufficient number of promising applicants have accumulated. During COVID, Interviews were by Zoom. We are starting to move back to more in-person interviews. Interviews are with the manager (myself), the supervisor (equivalent of an asst. manager), and the HR director. The same questions are used with all interviewees for a position. Those applying for positions requiring programming are required to do a presentation. The manager makes the final selection with HR input.

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

We always ask for cover letters, but very few people actually write them. If a candidate writes a thoughtful cover letter, assuming they meet the minimum job requirements, they almost always end up at the top of my list of people to interview. I’ve had very good correlation between successful hires and composers of excellent cover letters. I’m also impressed by people who come to interviews obviously very well prepared. For example, they previously visited the library and researched our services. I had an entry level candidate who had no library experience. While interviewing, I noticed he had a notebook with the Dewey Decimal System written out in detail. He never referenced it, but I noticed his preparation and it did influence my decision to hire him.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

People who don’t use proper capitalization, punctuation or grammar in their applications. People who can’t work the required hours or meet the minimum job requirements. People who give problematic sounding reasons for leaving their previous jobs, particularly when that same reason is listed multiple times. People who are out of school, yet still have tons of job turnover (particularly yearly turnover).

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

How well they’ll work with the rest of the team. There are indicators, but in the end, its always a gamble.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

Resume: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

CV: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

Revealing personal information that isn’t relevant and reflects poorly. Poorly handling questions like “What are you working to improve?”

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

More so than in the past. If you are asked to do a presentation, be prepared to screenshare. Nothing you try to hold up to the camera will look good.

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

Give solid examples of how your current skill set relates to the position you want. If the position you’re after is a stretch, say it requires programming skills and you’ve never programmed, make it clear to me that you’ve researched the topic and learned about professional resources that will help you grow and succeed in the position. I had a para-professional who wanted to become a youth programmer. She made an effort to get involved in anything she could that was remotely youth related. She sought advice from coworkers who were programmers. She practiced doing storytimes at home and filmed herself so she could self critique. Despite limited programming experience, she was the clear choice for the job. If a candidate keeps getting shot down for promotions, they should talk to HR and get advice. If there’s a clear problem area, they need to work on it. I’ve dealt with a person who applied for tons of jobs, but interviewed terribly. The fact that they never changed their style or seemed to learn from their experiences, made me concerned about how teachable they would be if given a promotion.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

We use a numerical metric to score responses to questions. I would like to see us advertise our positions more widely.

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

Asking questions is good. It’s fine to ask about things like schedule and benefits, but also ask some thoughtful things about the job. Examples: library goals, training process, management style, etc.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

√ Rural

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 101-200

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 100-200 staff members, Midwestern US, Public, Rural area, Suburban area

Further Questions: Can we talk about specific interview questions?  

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week’s question is:

Can we talk about specific interview questions? Do you have questions that are especially illuminating or are there well-known questions that you think are useless?


Katharine Clark, Deputy Director, Middleton Public Library: Here are three question I’ve recently started asking:

How do you handle it if your boss or supervisor asks you to do something you think is not useful or productive? How do you disagree with someone in charge?

What was the least favorite part of your last job experience? How did you try to change it?

When was the last time you offered a suggestion to improve a work environment? How was it received? Did the change occur?


Anonymous: My favorite interview question is “Tell me about a valid piece of criticism you’ve received.” The answers are incredibly telling. It avoids the fake weakness answers and also lets me know how well someone receives feedback. A red flag is if they respond that they’ve not ever received valid criticism.


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College:

Can we talk about specific interview questions?

While we can and should, I have found that organizations expect or anticipate dramatically different responses to which questions to use, why they include them and what they expect to learn from responses. I think this is due to many factors, but I see many nuances underpinning examples. And some of these responses have to do with the geographic location of the position as well as the level of position. Examples include:
Many questions end up being trick questions such as “Where do you want to be in five years?” is a loaded question and new, middle level or more experienced level people NEVER know what to say …. does an answer such as “right here in this job” mean the person is stagnating? with no ambition?” …does “retired!” or “in my dream job on the beach” mean you shouldn’t hire them as you are investing time and money in someone already planning to leave? or the famous answer “in your job!” which many people see as cocky or even inappropriate. If pushed – I would have to say I don’t know what the right answer is and we stopped asking it 15 years ago.
“Do you value, x, y or z?” or what is the “mission of the x” – at the very least – should be answered with pat answers that reflect both the profession and the values or mission of the organization itself. So – at the very least – if they don’t answer it or can’t it is almost ludicrous and if they reflect the specific wording of the professions or the mission statement, it should be expected and tells us nothing.
Instead:

The concepts can be included but the questions should assume the person possesses these to be successful and then the question becomes “how does the applicant articulate why?” or “how does the candidate provide context?” The question might be worded as “what is the mission of x within the context of x” or “the current values of the profession are stated as x, which do you think should be worded differently or are outdated or classic? How do organizational mission statements, vision and values integrate with community or umbrella organization mission, vision or values?
You should ask for specific actions so after stating that you value something such as “our librarians are committed to EDI …please give us two examples of how you have infused or conceptualized infusing EDI into your user reference or research interviews? your collection development? the design or choices of your ideas for community programs? And they should be wording to include first time applications such as “in studying contemporary reference or research support librarian/user interactions, how is EDI infused into the process?” or “in updating materials collections, what three things do librarians look for in assessing the presence or lack of presence of current materials (or materials reflecting EDI, etc.)?
Do you have questions that are especially illuminating or are there well-known questions that you think are useless?

Useless

So reversing the order with useless first – even if the question has context!
Why our library? our organization? (I prefer that it come up naturally, rather than me forcing something less-than-genuine out of someone.)
What are you reading now? (Inappropriate and I didn’t put it on the list but it did bring my favorite answer “the want ads.”)
Where do you want to be in five years?
Why do you want this job? (The majority of answers make me angry and why they make me angry is too much to include.)

Interesting (and note I feel strongly about the question being preceded with context.)
Although managers should have a plan in place for orienting, training and overall integrating employees into the work environment, what do you do to integrate yourself into a team? into a workplace?
Librarians and library employees are always learning something new – and while there are many different learning styles and choices for teaching or training employees on new systems or processes – what is your learning style? How do you choose to learn something new? Be specific as to format, process, approach, etc.
Especially now – given the online world of business communication and extensive remote discussions – what two things do you want from your supervisor regarding communication with you or the team online or in person? and you can also provide an example of a supervisor you have had and how he or she communicated particularly well.
Many librarians say they love the job because there is something new and different every day, but there are many aspects of our users that we appreciate and some more than others. What is your favorite user group to work with? Doctoral students? First – time visitors/community members to the library? 4th graders? Small business people? And why are they your favorites?
No matter how hard organizations try, we end up with last minute work, plans, approaches during our work day/work week. What skills set do you use to be flexible in a work setting?


Jaime Taylor, Discovery & Resource Management Systems Coordinator, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts: Useless question: “What is your greatest weakness?” The answers to this are rarely illuminating, and it feels like a gotcha question or like you are trying to get the candidate to say something bad about themself. Do not ask gotcha questions! If you really need to ask something like this, you could ask, “What kind of support would you need to be successful in this role?” That’s a much more useful question — it sets the candidate up for success, and gives the position’s supervisors actionable information.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: I think by now most people recognize the futility of asking the “strengths/weaknesses” question. I like to try to ask questions that can give a candidate the opportunity to tell us more about who they are. It could be “Tell us about a successful project you worked on or class you taught. Why was it successful? What about the success could or did you apply to other tasks? Or we might ask about a project or class that did not work out as planned and how the candidate used that experience in future planning.

I sometimes like to ask candidates (often for more administrative positions) what aspects of work they enjoy most and least. For public facing work scenarios can also be useful. Even when someone has not done library work before thinking through a situation that might include a response like “doing what I can for a library visitor but also letting them know I’ll have to check with my supervisor” can add helpful information about a candidate’s experience.

Overall I think this question really points to the importance of a search committee/hiring manager thinking meaningfully about what they want to learn about candidates through the interview process. Then we need to craft questions that are most likely to give a candidate the opportunity to share ideas and information that will help us assess what they could bring to the position available.


Laurie Phillips, Interim Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: Great question! I’ve been interviewing lately myself, so I have to say that, while I like asking situational questions (tell me about a time when…), I don’t love answering them. So many times, they are asking me to focus on negative situations and that’s difficult, but it’s about how you handle adversity. One of my favorite questions is “Why is this position a great fit for you and how are you a great fit for this position?” This is your chance to talk about why the job appeals to you, or why you feel like the position is a great fit for you and your skills. You may have covered some of this ground in your cover letter, but not everyone does. We sometimes ask about balancing collaborative and independent work, and we often ask how you approach learning something new (usually technology). Those are very telling answers! In our second round interviews, we will ask specific questions about the position and approach to the work, and we want to be sure that the person understands the position and what it entails. Terminology like one year extraordinary faculty can be confusing to someone who has never worked in an academic setting.


Anonymous: I like to use this question to gauge emotional intelligence:

Quoting RJ Palacio, author of the title Wonder, “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” What is your reaction to the quote? Based on your experiences, are there times when you must choose right over kind?

It will typically flush out the “black and white” thinker types, the “rules are the rules” kind of people. For me, the correct answer is choosing right when possible but leading with kindness. Libraries shouldn’t be using their policies as a bludgeoning tool to punish people. Enforce policies, yes, but understand that there are times when you need to bend the rules.

Also, the “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” question is outdated and useless. We live in a society where loyalty to a company no longer exists. We can’t expect people to stay forever!


Hilary Kraus, Research Services Librarian, UConn Library: Since I work in academic libraries, there are typically two sets of questions: one for the initial screening phone or video interviews, and then another for the second round campus interviews. So many screening interviews focus on expanding upon the information in a candidate’s CV/resume or cover letter, when what I really want to know is the stuff that often isn’t well-represented in those documents. It’s the combination of what they’ve submitted and the additional content of the phone interview that helps a search committee make decisions about who to move on to the next round.

Following are some questions I’ve found to be especially informative during the screening interview process:

  • What appeals to you about this position specifically and more generally about working at [insert institution here]? (I know the cover letter should include this, but I find it helpful when the candidate can elaborate on it.)
  • Describe a project or initiative you’ve worked on of which you’re especially proud.
  • Can you give us an example of a situation in which you collaborated with a colleague?
  • What aspects of this job do you think would most challenge you and how would you approach them?
  • What areas of your professional practice are you most interested in developing?

When it comes to on-campus interviews, I certainly want to hear about a candidate’s experience, but also how they might apply that in the position for which they’re interviewing. For new or early career librarians, I think it’s particularly helpful to phrase questions as hypotheticals or ask them to describe what approach they think would be successful. That means, for example, asking “What approaches have you taken or might you take to make informed collection development decisions in x disciplines?” instead of “Tell us about your experience doing collection development in x disciplines?”


Alison M. Armstrong, Collection Management Librarian, Radford University: There are some questions that end up being throw-away questions that serve more as ice-breakers than content generators. Then there are questions that are more informative.

One of them is, “What surprised you when researching our library or university?” This gives us an idea of not just what they learned but also some of the preconceived notions they started with, or may still have. Sometimes these are particularly enlightening and can give you sense of what outsiders focus on when looking at your website, and how things might be misinterpreted. It can be useful for your edification as well as an opportunity to address anything that may have been misunderstood or may need information gaps to be filled. It also tells us how they are approaching the position, the library, university, and area. Backhanded compliments do not play well.

Another good one is, “You overhear your colleague giving incorrect information to a patron. How do you handle this?” This one can be very informative. It seems pretty simple but it speaks to multiple areas at once: How do you treat your colleagues/peers? Do you feel comfortable speaking up and, if so, how do you do it? How do view information sharing with patrons? How do you see your role/authority in this capacity? How do you approach what could be a tense situation? I have heard a wide variety of responses. We want you to answer as honestly as possible.


Karen K. Reczek, Social Scientist, National Institute of Standards and Technology:

Favorite Questions
Tell me about a time you failed.
What is the most useful job related criticism you have ever received?
If three of your colleagues were here how would they describe you?
If you could change one aspect of your last/current job, what would that be?
Tell me about a time you turned something around that was stagnant or unsuccessful.
What area of your work do you think needs improvement or what skills do you still feel you need to develop?
When looking for a job what are the three most important things to you?
Can you tell me about a time when you felt like giving up on a certain job or task and why? and what happened?
Describe your best boss.
What do you know about our organization? (So many people come to an interview and CANNOT answer this. Very telling.)

Least favorite Questions
Where do you see yourself in five years (Hey most of us don’t know – how about what is your professional goal and has that changed over the years?)
What are your strength and weaknesses? (I think you can learn more by asking some of the above.)
Are you a team player? or would you be successful working with a team? (who is going to say no?!)
Are you able to handle multiple priorities at once? (again, not sure who will say, no…)


Jimmie Epling, Director, Darlington County Library System:

1) Do you have questions that are especially illuminating….

We have what we call the “snake question.” The question is “A parent (father or mother) and their child (son or daughter) come into the library 20 minutes before closing with a box in which there is a snake they want to identify. While helping them, three boys run through the library knocking the box off the table onto the floor. What do you do?”

There are so many experts and consultants offering candidate interview questions that we are told will help us discover something profound or significant about a candidate. Anyone wanting to do well on an interview can find these same questions online, in a book, or from a professional interview coach and learn how to answer them for success. There is a school of interviewing that focuses on asking “behavioral” interview questions. These questions are readily available and a candidate can prepare an answer for “Can you tell us of a time when you went above and beyond the line of duty?” or “Tell us about a time when you solved a problem at your job that wasn’t part of your job description.” How do I verify the candidate’s answer? The candidate’s answer can sound terrific, but has it been embellished or is it even true? I’m not sure a current or former employer will verify the candidate’s claim.

The snake question is specific. The goal of the question is to surprise the candidate, see how quickly the candidate recovers, and how the candidate prioritizes the actions necessary to respond to an unexpected situation. There are some answers that are better than others. The only wrong answer for us is to “run away.” One observation I will make is that on average only one out of one hundred will ask if the snake is alive. Almost all assume it is alive and respond accordingly.

Before thinking this is a ridiculous question and laughing, there are public librarians who will tell you they have encountered snakes in their libraries (“Bag of snakes brings new library policy in Madison County.” The Citizen-Times. October 20, 2019. https://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/madison/2019/10/20/madison-county-library-policy-bans-bags-snakes/4002405002/). If a candidate is able to respond to the question in a cool, thoughtful, and reasonable way to a situation like the snake in the box, it may be indicative of how the candidate would respond to an incident as an employee.

A few observations about using this question. I can’t say it originated with me. A public library director in Eastern Kentucky found it, used it, and as a consultant for the Kentucky State Library, I promoted its use. The question has become one of my staff’s favorites to ask because of the range of reactions by the candidates. It very often serves to lighten the seriousness of the interview, making it more congenial. The candidates also like it, later remarking how it made them see our work in a different way and being totally unprepared for it.

2) Are there well-known questions that you think are useless….

Once again, this question depends on the position for which the candidate is interviewing. Possibly the most useless question is “Where do you see yourself in five years?” In light of what we passed through with the COVID-19 pandemic, can we really predict where we will be in five years?

Those seeking professional positions will tell you about career goals, often tailoring the answer to what the interview committee might like to hear. They are very unlikely to say “I’ll have quite your job by then because it is just a stepping stone in my career to a better job.” Non-professionals, such as those in circulation positions in public libraries, will often tell you “I hope to be still working for the library in five years.”

The restrictions and responses brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in many leaving the workplace and wanting to work from home. COVID-19 has demonstrated how change can rapidly make a response to the question “where do you see yourself in five years” today meaningless tomorrow.


Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College: I like open-ended questions that are specific to the job and institution. For example, “What interests you about this job?” tells us how the applicant sees their skills matching up with our needs, while “What do you know about us?” lets us know if they’ve done their research.

I’m less fond of old corporate chestnuts like “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Anyone who has a crisp answer to that one is nowhere near flexible enough to survive in any library I’ve ever worked in.


Thanks for reading! If you want to read even more, there’s been some great discussion over on Twitter

We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or via creepy anonymous phone call. If you have a question to ask, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Some of the best people I’ve hired had odd skills that weren’t “official” library duties, but they demonstrated qualities that I wanted in an employee. 

Sophie Smith is the Assistant Director of York Public Library in York, Maine. While attaining her MLS from Simmons College, she worked as a library assistant at the Cambridge (MA) Public Library. Professionally, she has worked at the Nashua (NH) Public Library as a reference librarian and then supervisor of teen services, and as an assistant branch manager at the San Antonio (TX) Public Library. After missing family, fall, and the ocean, she returned to Maine and couldn’t be happier to now be working in Maine. She loves to travel, read, and enjoy nature.

 Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

We solicit applications by email, sort into groups of “meet all requirements,” “don’t meet all requirements but have transferable skills or knowledge to support job requirements,” and “do not meet requirements and have no demonstrated relatable skills”. Depending on the number of applicants, we interview everyone in the first set, and generally many of the second as well. For part-time positions we do one round of interviews, for full-time positions we generally have two rounds–one with the hiring manager and a member of the department (may be a senior person, may be a junior person), and a second round with the direct supervisor and the director. We then discuss candidates, check references, offer the job, and then contact everyone who applied. 

Titles hired include: Head of Youth Services, Library Assistant, Young Adult Librarian, Reference Librarian, Library Clerk

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

 Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

They took time to do research on our library and asked good questions. They were thoughtful.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

People who call constantly about a job. Cover letters that include inaccurate information (incorrect name of the library, for example). People who are unapologetically rude.

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

Their sense of humor. How they collaborate in practice. 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more 

Resume: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant 

CV: √ Two is ok, but no more  

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

Not taking a minute if they need it to answer a question. It’s perfectly fine to ask for a moment to come up with a good example! 

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

We have done virtual interviews in the past, in part due to COVID and in part due to candidates who were at a far distance. It is important to be in a space with good lighting that makes you comfortable. 

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

Think about the duties listed in the job and clarify for yourself how your skills are transferable. Acknowledge the difference, show that you’ve really considered it, and convince me it is applicable. Some of the best people I’ve hired had odd skills that weren’t “official” library duties, but they demonstrated qualities that I wanted in an employee. 

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

We post our job broadly, offer a competitive salary, and evaluate all candidates objectively before bringing them in to interview. I am sure there is more we can do. 

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

I like candidates who ask about the day-to-day culture of the library and about my experience working here. It gives an opportunity to share some of the informal aspects of the job and let the candidate assess how it would work for them. Thoughtful questions that make it clear the person has looked into what we do already and wants to know more! 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: occasionally, as needed and approved by supervisor

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author? 

I have used this resource as a job seeker and as an employer and find it to be an incredibly valuable tool. Thank you for making it!

Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not try commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 10-50 staff members, Northeastern US, Public, Suburban area

Further Questions: What current issues in librarianship do you think candidates should be aware of ?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week’s question is:

What “hot topics” would you ask candidates about in an interview right now (i.e. virtual programming)? Or what topics have you recently included? What current issues in librarianship do you think candidates should be aware of and how can they best keep up on current topics?


Anonymous: Materials challenges!

“An upset patron brings a children’s book to the circulation desk, saying that it is inappropriate for children. She demands it’s removal from the collection immediately. How do you respond?”

Material challenges are on the rise across the United States. Keeping up to date with the ALA’s challenged books, intellectual freedom statements, and the library bill of rights would give candidates a good foundation. The question also gives the candidate the opening to ask the interviewer if the library has a materials consideration form and collection development policy. Some libraries post these policies on their website, which gives the candidate the opportunity to study them beforehand and show the interviewer that they did their research.


Laurie Phillips, Interim Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: Probably the number one topic right now is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and how that permeates all of our work – critical librarianship, information literacy, accessibility, hiring, collection statements. I would look at the ACRL trends documents and the library’s vision and values statements (and their strategic plan) to determine the issues that will be important to that library and the field.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: The answer to this question depends a lot, or course, on the type of library and even on the specifics of the position available (area of expertise and whether the position is entry-level or requires prior experience). My thinking about this has changed even in the past few years as my smaller public liberal arts college has struggled with enrollment and budget gaps. Current research and writing on a variety of topics is of intellectual interest but not much practical value for the work and challenges we face in my library. When I think about “hot topics” that would help us consider the strengths of a candidate, I might ask a candidate about the integration of our work – to talk about the connections between developing collections, supporting teaching and research, making collections accessible, etc. An example of this integration is the frequency with which we see “Collections Development and Strategies” positions advertised. When we used this title (the last hire we were able to make), we were clear that the “strategies” were not only about materials formats or access, but also about outreach and use.

I think I would be interested in asking a candidate what issues facing higher education in general, and academic libraries specifically, they consider to be of interest and most important for the work they do and the job they applied for. I might hope to hear something about topics such as data privacy, equity and inclusion applied in many areas of our work, approaches to information literacy work with reduced staffing, open education, the effects of the trauma of the past few years on incoming undergraduates, or many others.

My answer to the question about keeping up has changed a lot over the years. As a very early career librarian I often read the top 3-4 journals cover to cover, including articles in areas I had less interest in or knowledge of. Over time I became better and picking and choosing and also added journals in areas outside librarianship. I think following the daily Inside Higher Ed digest is very useful. I read a few of the bloggers faithfully. The same for The Chronicle of Higher Education. These days I rely a lot on Twitter. I have found it incredibly useful identifying newly published blog posts, articles, etc. in librarianship and higher education in general. I’ll admit that I find a lot of blogs and other writing more useful than many of the more traditional peer-reviewed published articles these days.


Jimmie Epling, Director, Darlington County Library System:

What “hot topics” would you ask candidates about in an interview right now (i.e. virtual programming)? Or what topics have you recently included? The question of what “hot topics” to ask a candidate very much depends on the open position. With Youth Services Librarian positions, we have included questions revolving around “virtual programming,” but I don’t see this as a hot topic. Actually, I am not inclined to ask a question that centers on a “hot topic” because they tend to be short lived.

My preferred question is “What do you see as the greatest challenge facing libraries today?” A candidate’s answer can be very insightful or superficial. I expect to hear an answer focusing on “budget” or “censorship.” The answer to this question may well provide those on the interview committee an opportunity to dive deep into the candidate’s beliefs and values.

What current issues in librarianship do you think candidates should be aware of and how can they best keep up on current topics? Let’s be honest here, what might be considered a “current issue” in librarianship may well have little relevance to my library and/or community. Once again, the answer regarding knowledge of a current issue depends on the position in question. Being aware of the “current issues” in the community my library serves can be much more important, and ultimately more impactful to the operation of the library, than knowing about a “current issue in librarianship.”


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College:

What “hot topics” would you ask candidates about in an interview right now (i.e. virtual programming)? Or what topics have you recently included? I typically don’t answer “it depends” but it really does depend on the level of the position. For example – an entry level librarian’s hot topic might be something like – Have you or how have you changed your reference interview/customer service exchanges to build in a culture of EDI for your users? That question conveys that it is a “must” for the organization but shows the candidate that the organization knows it is everyone’s job to make sure the culture is comfortable and appropriate for users.

If I am interviewing a librarian who might be in a coordinative, managerial or leadership position (all different aspects of some positions as we know) our questions lean more to making sure applicants know that we have put things in motion to integrate and insure EDI is built into the organizational structure (customer service, signage, marketing, professional exchanges, language, etc.) but more importantly that a manager must be committed to “requiring and assessing behavior” and maintaining the new or revised processes as well as a constant evolution that focuses on change for this critical area.

Also – for middle or higher level managers (or this second group addressed) it is important to communicate that organizational documents must be reviewed for needed revisions and additions such as mission and values statements, goals, outcomes, budget allotments, as well as individual employee goals. Adding in interview discussions and questions for all levels communicates not only that an organization is changing but also to clearly communicate new requirements are in place for orientation, staff development and – more than likely – individual evaluations conducted to measure not only presence but application of critical approaches to structuring content and working with users.

Interview committees should also be ready for questions from applicants on the very hot topics of “How is your organization handling gun control?” or “How did/does your umbrella organization and how are you handling the administrative requests throughout the country for removing materials or banning certain materials from the library?”

What current issues in librarianship do you think candidates should be aware of and how can they best keep up on current topics? Like any current issue in the profession, those interviewing and interviewers need to be aware of the facts and both what general approaches and the narrower approaches that individuals must take to comply or refuse some current issues both in the profession as well as those in the surrounding community or society at large. For the profession certainly – as covered above – EDI, Open materials, book censorship and banning come to mind as those issues most directly in front of us. Societal issues – now overlapping for us in many areas – include some aspects of EDI, staff and user gun control issues, and -of course – public wellness and local, county, state and national health and wellness guidelines. Certainly underpinning many if not all of these areas is free speech and intellectual freedom – mainstays in our profession for protecting practices – but certainly viewed now with new topics guiding discussions.

Keeping up on topics must be a combination of where to look for the facts, terminology to be used and how manners should integrate these issues into work life. Obviously, cornerstone professional journals, identified online vetted forums – by library professionals and specialty journals with opinions by experts are places to find foundational information. Professionals should always; however, seek to find out the breadth of the issue – if for no other reason than to recognize terminology brought into the workplace by staff or by users, and likely flashpoints. Organizational administrators should begin to – if they haven’t already – provide their own information gathering foundation and share that with staff and users as needed. This sharing allows people to see that decisions are made after reviewing vetting environments. For example – pandemic decisions for the organization should have been accompanied with citations to or names of the organizations consulted such as the CDC, initially the WHO and local dashboards maintained by reputable sources such as County Public Health or an organization’s Risk Management office – those people tasked with maintaining valid information. Citing research provides managers with the supporting documentation for why decisions were made (or not) and then both staff and users better understand how decisions came to be. It was especially important during the last two years when the speed of decision making was unprecedented for organizations. Having a pre-defined and advertised approach lent credibility and a valued process and reduced stress for employees as well as avoided many triggers for users.


Thanks for reading! We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or from your closest rooftop. If you have a question to ask, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Currently, we’re over 300% turnover since 2016 and cannot attract candidates.

A white woman sits at a desk covered in books, using a typewriter
Image: Anita Ozols works at typewriter in Chubb Library Cataloging Department, shortly before move to the new Alden Library by Ohio University Libraries on Flickr

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library

Title: Head of Cataloging

Titles hired: Reference Librarian, acquisitions, circulation

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ A Committee or panel

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

It’s a disaster. A committee makes and recommendation and the director ignores it.

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

Currently, we’re over 300% turnover since 2016 and cannot attract candidates.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

CV: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

we have for COVID but are starting to perform on campus interviews

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

technical skills

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ We only discuss after we’ve made an offer

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

We have a DEI statement that is ignored

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

What happened to the the last three people that had this job?

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southwestern US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 10-50 staff members, Southwestern US, Urban area